Believe it or not, I actually do listen to my readers, and when two of them email me months apart, completely independently of each other and recommend the same movie, I tend to take notice. In this case, the movie in question was Japan’s epic zombie musical from the year 2000, Wild Zero.
Sadly, it was not, as I had been informed, the best movie ever made, an honor that long-time ISB readers will no doubt recall belongs to Kill and Kill Again.
It is, however, totally in the top five.
At its heart, Wild Zero is a movie about a young man learning about life and love, and how we all have the power within ourselves to overcome our hardships–wait… No, that’s not right at all. Hang on, I had my notes mixed up.
Okay, here we go: At its heart, Wild Zero is about blowing up zombies with the power of rock ‘n’ roll, and if that’s not one of the classic conflicts of literature already, it damn well should be.
I could pretty much stop there and give you my word that this movie is scientifically calibrated to blow your mind, and in fact, the IMDB listing under Plot Summary remains completely empty–an affliction shared, oddly enough, by Road House–but I’m going to make my best effort here.
The whole thing gets started when a meteor crash-lands in the city of Asahi, and given that you already know that this movie involves zombies, you’ve probably already guessed that that’ll be important later.
Anyway, this handsome devil… is Ace:
…and he’s pretty much our main character by default. As he says later on in the movie, his name’s Ace because “Ace… is number one,” and in the grand tradition of zombie movies, he misses the news about the meteorite because he’s too busy getting ready to go see the real stars of the show.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…
A three-piece rockabilly combo featuring the sound stylings of Guitar Wolf, Bass Wolf, and Drum Wolf, these guys are real-life Japanese rock stars whose careers seem to be based almost entirely on kicking ass, and in addition to providing a frontman whose main purpose in life is getting drunk and making stuff explode, they also do the music for the film, which was named after one of their songs.
At one point, in fact, the camera cuts away from the action to show them in concert playing a song that goes a little something like this:
Baby Baby Baby, Roaring Blood!
Blood Blood Blood, Exploding Blood!
…and when Guitar Wolf sings, flames shoot out of the microphone. Face it tiger: You just found your new favorite band.
During the opening concert, their rock gets to the point where Guitar Wolf blasts a fan off of his feet with lightning from his guitar, although to be fair, it’s not made clear whether or not Ace just happened to catch them on a really good night. Regardless, it’s a pretty fantastic scene… or it would be, were it not interrupted halfway through by some dude viciously beating the crap out of a hooker, an image that doesn’t really mesh well with a feel-good song about jets and other loud objects.
But it all leads somwehere… sort of. After their set, while Ace is trying to build up the courage to approach the club owner and get a show of his own, Guitar Wolf passes the offending party as he walks the hooker out, and exchanges an angry look. Things only get more tense as the band faces off against the club owner, a gentleman with an affinity for very, very tiny pants and cocaine mixed with milk, until things escalate to the point where everyone pulls out a gun at what appears to be a completely random point of the conversation.
It’s a standoff for a few minutes until Ace bursts in to shout that rock ‘n’ roll isn’t dead, and that’s when the shooting starts (and, for the record, it’ll be continuing pretty steadily for the rest of the movie). Needless to say, Guitar Wolf is not to be trifled with, the Club Owner gets a few fingers blown off for his trouble and swears revenge, and Ace is given a whistle to blow whenever he feels the need to summon the unstoppable rock power of Guitar Wolf.
The next day finds Ace crusing around on his motorcycle when he stops at a gas station and inadvertently foils what can only be referred to as an accidental robbery by three characters who insist on sticking around for the rest of the movie despite all evidence pointing to the fact that these were cameo roles at best.
And that’s where he meets Tobio:
Left on the side of the road by an angry traveling companion, Tobio finds herself alone in a Foreign Land (she’s Thai), but rather than stick around and follow up on their obvious love connection, Ace realizes he’s going to be late for the next Guitar Wolf show and leaves her at the abandoned gas station.
This, of course, is the appropriate course of action.
Meanwhile, a few guys from the previous night–including the one who worked the hooker over–run across a gang of footwear-wielding zombies, and–again, in time-honored zombie movie tradition–completely fail to realize that they’re the walking dead, despite the fact that they are both shambling and blue.
Ace is able to make it a few miles down the road before he’s confronted with the undead, and promptly hightails it back to the gas station, picks up a mop, and proceeds to rescue Tobio Toxie-Style!
Tobio and Ace make their escape, and after a strange scene in which the Club Owner (whose actual name, it seems, is The Captain) auditions a girl who sings a song about miracle beams of love, this movie gets even more awesome in the only way that it possibly can:
Yes, my friends, that is a naked woman shooting zombies in the head–which, of course, makes them explode–from the comfort of her own shower. Movie: Awesome. Review: Over.
…but really, I’ve come this far, I might as well continue. After all, this is where this flick starts to get awesome with a vengeance.
The Captain–still missing a few fingers from his earlier encounter–finds out where Guitar Wolf is playing and sets off with a car-load of guns to get his revenge, the vaguely militaristic but definitely naked girl above grabs a rather formal swimsuit and flees the scene, and Ace and Tobio hole up in an abandoned building for an emotional scene where he reveals that finding love in such a horrible situation has made him believe in God.
And then he finds out she’s a dude.
Brother, if I had a nickel.
Given that he’s already stressed out, it’s pretty understandable that Ace freaks out and boards himself in a nearby room, but once the spirit of Guitar Wolf shows up to set him straight (as it were) in a process that takes roughly eighty thousand fewer words than Chasing Amy, he decides that it’s a better idea to channel his anger to a more productive end.
Namely, beating zombies to death with a crowbar.
Fortunately for Ace–who spends the next half our on that whole zombie-bludgeoning project–he is not alone even in this, his most trying of times.
For Guitar Wolf has heard his cry.
That, for the record, is a phrase I intend to use in my day to day life as often as possible.
Anyway, before they can save Ace, Guitar Wolf has to face the Captain down in a battle that taught the Captain the folly of trying to use a zombie as a human shield, and featured an explosions-per-minute ratio that made me glad to be alive. Seriously, there’s a scene where the Captain shoots a grenade into an apartment building, and Guitar Wolf leaps out as it explodes, dropping a power chord on his way to the ground, where he lands on his feet and re-tunes his axe, which was so awesome that even trying to screencap it would blow your monitor to pieces.
And if that does not bring tears of joy to your eyes, then we will never understand each other.
With Guitar Wolf out of bullets, they go hand-to-hand for a fight so intense that green lightning erupts from the combatants, which has the unforseen and inexplicable side-effect of giving the Captain super-powers. Luckily, after only six or seven explosions resulting from lightning fired from his eyes, the rest of the band shows up with a rocket launcher and blows him up but good.
And then the aliens show up.
And then Guitar Wolf pulls a sword out of his guitar, cuts a spaceship in half, blows it up, and saves the world.
So yeah. You guys remember that time I said this wasn’t the greatest movie ever made?
There’s a slim chance that I might’ve been wrong.